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Literary Stations
of The Moscow Subway

Learn about the literary history of the Moscow metro

Recently Moscow has been named Europe’s Leading City Destination in 2020 by World Travel Awards. The city also won as Europe’s Leading Heritage Destination of the year. Among the main sights of the city there is Moscow Metro, which has got piece of art decorated stations. It is usually called the most beautiful metro in the world! However, in Moscow the Metro is not just a convenient means of transport, but an opportunity to enjoy wonderful architecture, visit a museum, tours, have a meal in a cafe or even listen to a music concert.

The Moscow metro appeared in 1935. Today the metropolitan subway has 275 stations, near 50 of them are cultural heritage sites. The map of the Moscow metro is like a book in many ways. Take the Koltsevaya (circle) line. It is read like a post-war industrial novel about the construction of underground palace-like stations. The Sokolnicheskaya line resembles a historical opus about the creation of the Moscow rapid transit system. But some metro stations have more of a literature vibe about them than others. And that is no coincidence, seeing how they are named after famous writers and poets.

The next station is the future

'I immediately smeared the map of routine, splashing paint out of a glass'—the sweeping verses of Vladimir Mayakovsky are immediately recognisable. They are overflowing with boundless energy. The same emotions are evoked when you arrive at Mayakovskaya station on the Zamoskvoretskaya line. Much of its history zipped along at lightning speed: after the square on the ground up above it was renamed, the station's name too was changed from Triumfalnaya to Mayakovskaya and the luxurious palace was redesigned while the ceiling was adorned with mosaics based off Alexander Deineka's Morning in the Soviet Sky series of drawings. Oddly enough, despite the station bearing the name of the famous poet, you would be hard-pressed to find his image there. This issue was fixed in the 2000s: during the construction of the new vestibule, a bust of Mayakovsky was put up there and a band with quotes from the poet's most famous pieces was put up around the mosaics on the ceiling.

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How do I get to the library?

If you take a stroll down the Boulevard Ring, you're bound to end up on Turgenev Square. Some old buildings here sit right next door to ultra-modern ones: the square originated in 1885 and it was also then that the first public library opened its doors there, which, naturally, was named after Ivan Turgenev. It used to draw just as many visitors as the library of the Rumyantsev Museum. In the early 1970s, a new metro station was built under the square and it was also named after Turgenev. Unlike other stand-alone stations, Turgenevskaya is connected via underground passages with Chistye Prudy and Sretensky Boulevard.

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Station Guard

Regardless of whether you find yourself in Minsk, Saint Petersburg or Omsk, you will easily guess the name of one of the metro stations all the rapid transit systems in those cities have: Pushkinskaya. Spacious and light, it looks like an underground dance hall. The walls are adorned with chiseled bas reliefs with quotes from the poet's famous poems. Every relief depicts a location that had some significance in Pushkin's life. The Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum that he attended, the Svyatogorsky Monastery, where he is buried, and St. Petersburg and Moscow are two cities that his life was closely intertwined with. Pushkinskaya is a popular meeting spot: it is easy to find each other: in the passageway leading to Chekhovskaya, there is a bust of the poet based off the portrait by Orest Kiprensky.

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To Moscow, to Moscow

Malaya Dmitrovka was the street that merchants arriving from Dmitrov used to travel on and it led from Strastaya Square to the Garden ring. In the 19th century it was popular with both merchants and nobles alike. It was also here that Anton Chekhov took up residence in a small outbuilding after his return from Sakhalin. It was here that he wrote Jump and Duel and he also worked in the building next door at the editorial office of Spectator Magazine. In 1944 Malaya Dmitrovka was renamed Chekhovskaya and the local metro station got the same name too. The light gray walls feature mosaic panels with scenes from the writer's famous works and the lamps have decorative drapes reminiscent of a theatre curtain.

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White Nights

In 1821, Fedor Dostoyevsky was born in Moscow's Mariinsky Hospital for the Poor. His father was a staff doctor there and the family lived in an outbuilding. The Dostoyevsky family spent several years on Novaya Bozhedomka until they moved to an estate outside the city. But even after that, Fedor Dostoyevsky's life was always closely linked to Moscow. In 1954, the street where the famous writer spent his childhood was named after him and the little house where his family once lived is now a museum. 2010 saw the opening of a metro station bearing the writer's name (Dostoyevskaya). It is not very often that modern metro stations make such a dramatic impression as this one: artist Ivan Nikolaev made a huge panel depicting the characters from Dostoyevsky's most famous novels and the artist did not shy away from an excess of gloom. He reasoned that ignoring such major works as Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov would have been totally wrong. And Moscow now has classical literature set in stone.

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And the Lone Sail

For almost half a century, Vykhino was the end of the Tagansko-Krasnopresnenskaya line. In 2013, Lermontovsky Prospekt was added to it. The name was picked based on the name of the street located nearby. If you look at the map, it becomes clear how the Moscow neighbourhood of Zhulebino is linked to the poet: it is through here that the route to the Tarkhan estate passes and it was there that Lermontov spent his childhood. The station is rather shallow and is decorated mostly in happy yellow and green hues, reminiscent of blooming summer fields. .

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A Bit of Satire

The stations of the Moscow metro are representative of almost every architectural style in existence. One boasts Stalin empire elements, another is done in renaissance and this one is an example of 1970s utilitarian realism. The 2000s saw yet another change in the interior decoration of new metro stations: they were now modern but with a twist. For example, Fonvizinskaya, a station named after the author of The Minor, features 3D panels by Konstantin Khudyakov with characters from the play that are lit up in a special way that makes them look as if they are alive.

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Taking a stroll down an avenue

Ivan Bunin thought his best work was the Dark Avenues collection of stories about love, which he wrote in the 1930s-1940s. The writer first came to Moscow in 1895 and was completely enthralled by the city. He remembered it as an extremely complex, bright and big painting that reminds one of a dream. He lived in Moscow until 1918, at which point he left Russia. One of his last addresses in Moscow was in Povarskaya Street. In the mid-1990s, there appeared another location in the city related to Ivan Bunin: Bunin Avenue. And Buninskaya Alleya metro station opened in the 2000s. Interestingly, it is the southernmost metro station in the Russian capital.

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